This morning, as usual, Danny and I were chatting over coffee. The night before he’d had a call from a good friend and he was saying how much he’d enjoyed it. I can’t remember now how we circled around to it, but for some reason, he said something about the terrible circumstances of his childhood and how far he’d come in life.
My thoughts drifted to a meme I’d seen the day before on Good Friday.
It’s Friday… Peter is asleep. Judas has betrayed him. Mary is crying. Hope is lost. Death has won. Satan is laughing. Jesus is buried. A soldier stands guard. A rock is rolled into place… but Sunday is coming.
I tried to imagine how low that moment must have been for Jesus’ followers? They’d lived amongst each other for years. They’d shared laughter and tears. They’d been witness to amazing miracles. They’d heard soul-changing sermons that they’d struggled to understand. And they loved Him. He was their Messiah.
And now he was dead. He’d been beaten and scourged, endured a tortuous march to the site where he was then killed brutally. The person they’d come to place all of their faith in was gone. And they still couldn’t understand the glory that was to come. They couldn’t even believe it would come.
What a hopeless moment that must have been, their hearts broken. And they must have been terrified that their fate might also be to die just the way their Master had. Three days was all they had to wait for the ultimate triumph of that suffering… but it was coming.
And on that day, that third day, he finally appeared to them and said, “Peace be with you.”
Every single bad in our lives… every single tear shed… every single pain and trauma… the Lord turns to greatness. He makes triumph of pain.
In 1995, right out of high school, I was lucky enough to get a job at a museum attached to the college I was attending. It was a phenomenal place and I came to enjoy it. My boss was mesmerizing to me. He’d built a place that could tell the history of my hometown in a way that was vibrant and entertaining instead of dry and boring.
By 1996 I’d come to really love that place. So when I got a call that a water line had burst in the third floor and flooded the entire building, I showed up the next morning, a Sunday, to help clean up. And when I pulled into the parking lot I glanced across to the dumpsters where my boss was dragging some soaked and crumbling ceiling tiles to the trash. Our eyes met and I saw how devastated he was. He’d put his heart and soul into that museum and the damage was severe. It was a painful blow.
Over the weeks I put in extra hours, helping to haul off the debris, to preserve what artifacts we could, and eventually, to create a massive database of what was a total loss. I worked side-by-side with my boss and came to admire him even more… and then finally, just before we were set to reopen the museum, he asked me if I’d like to go out with him.
And now, almost twenty-five years later, we’re still side-by-side. I’m unequivocally blessed to call him my husband.
God turned that moment of heartbreak into something good.
Last week in his message our Pastor recounted the story of Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem.
“Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”” March 11:2-3
The Lord needs it and will send it back shortly.
Pastor talked about how incongruent that sentence was. Why does God need anything? He can just snap his fingers and make it so. But Jerusalem was buzzing that day. There was huge anticipation for the King the Jews believed was coming. They were ready for a revolution to change their circumstances. And because they were looking for a king, when one of Jesus’ disciples said, “The Lord needs it,” the owner of the donkey understood. After all, rulers took things all the time. So, if a King wanted his donkey, he could have it….
But what might not get much attention is that Jesus also sent the colt back.
Because, as the pastor said, God doesn’t ask us for anything that he won’t return to us in glory.
“Give, and it will be given to you.” Luke 6:38
A friend told me the story of how his mother, after his dad died, never spoke about it except to say, “God took him.” She didn’t say he died, he passed away, he went to be with the Lord. “God took him.”
She never quite recovered from that.
It’s hard to contemplate the idea of God’s supremacy over all the world, without also blaming Him for when things go wrong. Especially when we lose our loved ones. After all, if He can turn things to good, then why couldn’t he have stopped the bad?
God has given us life and in giving us life, he also gave us free will. But He doesn’t play with us like chess pieces on the board.
So how then, does He make goodness from pain?
We are the answer to that question. He made us to love, to give love, to receive love. That is the goodness he makes of the pain.
The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works. Psalm 145:9
He doesn’t have to do it that way any more than he had to tell the disciples to fetch the donkey from the village. He could snap his fingers, keep all the pain away or heal it instantly. He could just breathe the word and make it so. But God knows us, He knows our hearts, He knows our sorrow, our happiness, and our fulfillment. And relationship brings all of those. Relationships with our spouses, our children, our parents, our friends, and especially with Him who gave us life.
People who are in recovery and a part of a 12-step type of program understand this. Their healing is directly connected to their offering of service and help to others. Staying in recovery requires that service, not because it’s a rule but because the human spirit has the deep-seated need for it. Because true fulfillment is found in it.
This has been a devastatingly hard year and a half for most of us. We’ve suffered job losses, business collapse, sickness, and death. We’ve been denied the necessary chance to mourn those losses. We’ve been denied true relationship with our fellow man and woman.
If you’re hurting today, I am praying for you. I pray that the rock will be rolled away and the triumph will find its way into your heart. I pray that the healing will reach your broken places. I pray that in the light you’ll find someone else’s broken pieces too. I pray in the words of Jesus…
Peace be with you.
I pray with assurance and faith in Jesus because I know…
The Lord needs YOU, my friend.